At least 60 civilians and 13 US troop members were killed on Thursday after two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the crowd at Kabul airport. With mere days left before the August 31 evacuation deadline, thousands have flocked to the only exit point in the country, desperate to flee the Taliban takeover. More than 100,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since August 14 when the Taliban took over many of the major cities and headed to Kabul.
Earlier in the day, several nations including the US and Australia had issued issued warnings about a 'very high threat of terrorist attack' at the airport, warning citizens converged outside at several points to "leave immediately'. But with thousands of Afghans desperate to escape the country before the US officially ends its 20-year presence, that advice went largely unheeded.
Over the last few days the US had spoken on several occasion about the threat posed by the ISIS-K, an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan. Far more radical than the Taliban, they are believed to have been operating independently from the militants who took over Afghanistan.
As news of the horrific attack left the world reeling, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the killings on its Amaq news channel. "With regard to finding, tracking down the ISIS leaders who ordered this, we have some reason to believe we know who they are, not certain, and we will find ways of our choosing without large military operations to get them," Biden had said on Thursday.
While US President Joe Biden and other officials have soundly condemned the attack, vowing to avenge the victims, evacuation efforts will not be hindered. The flag of the United States will be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the federal government till August 30 to honour the victims of Kabul attack.
Condemning the attack, India has called for a unified global stand against terrorism-enablers and extended "heartfelt condolences' to the families of the victims. "Today's attacks reinforce the need for the world to stand unitedly against terrorism, and all those who provide sanctuaries to terrorists," India's Permanent Representative T.S. Tirumurti said on Thursday.
In the case of some other countries however, the attack has prompted the decision to conclude evacuation efforts. Both Australia and New Zealand have announced that they were ending the airlift from Kabul. Going by reports, the leaders of both countries have admitted that there may be other individuals who now find themselves unable to exit the country.
As per a report by The Guardian, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was somewhat unclear on how many visa holders from Afghanistan were in the country, nor how many of those registered on SafeTravel had managed to leave. "But I can say, we know with absolute certainty, we did not get everyone out,” she admitted. Ardern however insisted that New Zealand had not given up on visa-holders, stating that the future evacuation will "look different" and be difficult and longer.
Her Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison downplayed the possibility of Afghan nationals holding Australian visas who remain in Afghanistan being unable to get out. He added that his administration was "still engaged with them".